by Anthony Trollope
It is generally supposed that people who live at home,good
domestic people, who love tea and their arm-chairs, and who keep the
parlour hearth-rug ever warm,it is generally supposed that these
are the people who value home the most, and best appreciate all the
comforts of that cherished institution. I am inclined to doubt
this. It is, I think, to those who live farthest away from home, to
those who find the greatest difficulty in visiting home, that the
word conveys the sweetest idea. In some distant parts of the world
it may be that an Englishman acknowledges his permanent resting
place; but there are many others in which he will not call his daily
house, his home. He would, in his own idea, desecrate the word by
doing so. His home is across the blue waters, in the little
northern island, which perhaps he may visit no more; which he has
left, at any rate, for half his life; from which circumstances, and
the necessity of living, have banished him. His home is still in
England, and when he speaks of home his thoughts are there.
No one can understand the intensity of this feeling who has not seen
or felt the absence of interest in life which falls to the lot of
many who have to eat their bread on distant soils. We are all apt
to think that a life in strange countries will be a life of
excitement, of stirring enterprise, and varied scenes;that in
abandoning the comforts of home, we shall receive in exchange more
of movement and of adventure than would come in our way in our own
tame country; and this feeling has, I am sure, sent many a young man
roaming. Take any spirited fellow of twenty, and ask him whether he
would like to go to Mexico for the next ten years! Prudence and his
father may ultimately save him from such banishment, but he will not
refuse without a pang of regret.
Alas! it is a mistake. Bread may be earned, and fortunes, perhaps,
made in such countries; and as it is the destiny of our race to
spread itself over the wide face of the globe, it is well that there
should be something to gild and paint the outward face of that lot
which so many are called upon to choose. But for a life of daily
excitement, there is no life like life in England; and the farther
that one goes from England the more stagnant, I think, do the waters
of existence become.
But if it be so for men, it is ten times more so for women. An
Englishman, if he be at Guatemala or Belize, must work for his
bread, and that work will find him in thought and excitement. But
what of his wife? Where will she find excitement? By what pursuit
will she repay herself for all that she has left behind her at her
mother's fireside? She will love her husband. Yes; that at least!
If there be not that, there will be a hell, indeed. Then she will
nurse her children, and talk of herhome. When the time shall come
that her promised return thither is within a year or two of its
accomplishment, her thoughts will all be fixed on that coming
pleasure, as are the thoughts of a young girl on her first ball for
the fortnight before that event comes off.
On the central plain of that portion of Central America which is
called Costa Rica stands the city of San Jose. It is the capital of
the Republic,for Costa Rica is a Republic,and, for Central
America, is a town of some importance. It is in the middle of the
coffee district, surrounded by rich soil on which the sugar-cane is
produced, is blessed with a climate only moderately hot, and the
native inhabitants are neither cut-throats nor cannibals. It may be
said, therefore, that by comparison with some other spots to which
Englishmen and others are congregated for the gathering together of
money, San Jose may be considered as a happy region; but,
nevertheless, a life there is not in every way desirable. It is a
dull place, with little to interest either the eye or the ear.
Although the heat of the tropics is but little felt there on account
of its altitude, men and women become too lifeless for much
enterprise. There is no society. There are a few Germans and a few
Englishmen in the place, who see each other on matters of business
during the day; but, sombre as life generally is, they seem to care
little for each other's company on any other footing. I know not to
what point the aspirations of the Germans may stretch themselves,
but to the English the one idea that gives salt to life is the idea
of home. On some day, however distant it may be, they will once
more turn their faces towards the little northern island, and then
all will be well with them.
To a certain Englishman there, and to his dear little wife, this
prospect came some few years since somewhat suddenly. Events and
tidings, it matters not which or what, brought it about that they
resolved between themselves that they would start immediately;
almost immediately. They would pack up and leave San Jose within
four months of the day on which their purpose was first formed. At
San Jose a period of only four months for such a purpose was
immediately. It creates a feeling of instant excitement, a
necessity for instant doing, a consciousness that there was in those
few weeks ample work both for the hands and thoughts,work almost
more than ample. The dear little wife, who for the last two years
had been so listless, felt herself flurried.
"Harry," she said to her husband, "how shall we ever be ready?" And
her pretty face was lighted up with unusual brightness at the happy
thought of so much haste with such an object. "And baby's things
too," she said, as she thought of all the various little articles of
dress that would be needed. A journey from San Jose to Southampton
cannot in truth be made as easily as one from London to Liverpool.
Let us think of a month to be passed without any aid from the
washerwoman, and the greatest part of that month amidst the
sweltering heats of the West Indian tropics!
In the first month of her hurry and flurry Mrs. Arkwright was a
happy woman. She would see her mother again and her sisters. It
was now four years since she had left them on the quay at
Southampton, while all their hearts were broken at the parting. She
was a young bride then, going forth with her new lord to meet the
stern world. He had then been home to look for a wife, and he had
found what he looked for in the younger sister of his partner. For
he, Henry Arkwright, and his wife's brother, Abel Ring, had
established themselves together in San Jose. And now, she thought,
how there would be another meeting on those quays at which there
should be no broken hearts; at which there should be love without
sorrow, and kisses, sweet with the sweetness of welcome, not bitter
with the bitterness of parting. And people told her,the few
neighbours around her,how happy, how fortunate she was to get home
thus early in her life. They had been out some ten,some twenty
years, and still the day of their return was distant. And then she
pressed her living baby to her breast, and wiped away a tear as she
thought of the other darling whom she would leave beneath that
And then came the question as to the route home. San Jose stands in
the middle of the high plain of Costa Rica, half way between the
Pacific and the Atlantic. The journey thence down to the Pacific
is, by comparison, easy. There is a road, and the mules on which
the travellers must ride go steadily and easily down to Punta
Arenas, the port on that ocean. There are inns, too, on the way,
places of public entertainment at which refreshment may be obtained,
and beds, or fair substitutes for beds. But then by this route the
traveller must take a long additional sea voyage. He must convey
himself and his weary baggage down to that wretched place on the
Pacific, there wait for a steamer to take him to Panama, cross the
isthmus, and reship himself in the other waters for his long journey
home. That terrible unshipping and reshipping is a sore burden to
the unaccustomed traveller. When it is absolutely necessary,then
indeed it is done without much thought; but in the case of the
Arkwrights it was not absolutely necessary. And there was another
reason which turned Mrs. Arkwright's heart against that journey by
Punt' Arenas. The place is unhealthy, having at certain seasons a
very bad name;and here on their outward journey her husband had
been taken ill. She had never ceased to think of the fortnight she
had spent there among uncouth strangers, during a portion of which
his life had trembled in the balance. Early, therefore, in those
four months she begged that she might not be taken round by Punt'
Arenas. There was another route. "Harry, if you love me, let me go
by the Serapiqui." As to Harry's loving her, there was no doubt
about that, as she well knew.
There was this other route by the Serapiqui river, and by Greytown.
Greytown, it is true, is quite as unhealthy as Punt' Arenas, and by
that route one's baggage must be shipped and unshipped into small
boats. There are all manner of difficulties attached to it.
Perhaps no direct road to and from any city on the world's surface
is subject to sharper fatigue while it lasts. Journeying by this
route also, the traveller leaves San Jose mounted on his mule, and
so mounted he makes his way through the vast primeval forests down
to the banks of the Serapiqui river. That there is a track for him
is of course true; but it is simply a track, and during nine months
of the twelve is so deep in mud that the mules sink in it to their
bellies. Then, when the river has been reached, the traveller seats
him in his canoe, and for two days is paddled down,down along the
Serapiqui, into the San Juan River, and down along the San Juan till
he reaches Greytown, passing one night at some hut on the river
side. At Greytown he waits for the steamer which will carry him his
first stage on his road towards Southampton. He must be a
connoisseur in disagreeables of every kind who can say with any
precision whether Greytown or Punt' Arenas is the better place for a
For a full month Mr. Arkwright would not give way to his wife. At
first he all but conquered her by declaring that the Serapiqui
journey would be dangerous for the baby; but she heard from some one
that it could be made less fatiguing for the baby than the other
route. A baby had been carried down in a litter strapped on to a
mule's back. A guide at the mule's head would be necessary, and
that was all. When once in her boat the baby would be as well as in
her cradle. What purpose cannot a woman gain by perseverance? Her
purpose in this instance Mrs. Arkwright did at last gain by
And then their preparations for the journey went on with much
flurrying and hot haste. To us at home, who live and feel our life
every day, the manufacture of endless baby-linen and the packing of
mountains of clothes does not give an idea of much pleasurable
excitement; but at San Jose, where there was scarcely motion enough
in existence to prevent its waters from becoming foul with
stagnation, this packing of baby-linen was delightful, and for a
month or so the days went by with happy wings.
But by degrees reports began to reach both Arkwright and his wife as
to this new route, which made them uneasy. The wet season had been
prolonged, and even though they might not be deluged by rain
themselves, the path would be in such a state of mud as to render
the labour incessant. One or two people declared that the road was
unfit at any time for a woman,and then the river would be much
swollen. These tidings did not reach Arkwright and his wife
together, or at any rate not till late amidst their preparations, or
a change might still have been made. As it was, after all her
entreaties, Mrs. Arkwright did not like to ask him again to alter
his plans; and he, having altered them once, was averse to change
them again. So things went on till the mules and the boats had been
hired, and things had gone so far that no change could then be made
without much cost and trouble.
During the last ten days of their sojourn at San Jose, Mrs.
Arkwright had lost all that appearance of joy which had cheered up
her sweet face during the last few months. Terror at that terrible
journey obliterated in her mind all the happiness which had arisen
from the hope of being soon at home. She was thoroughly cowed by
the danger to be encountered, and would gladly have gone down to
Punt' Arenas, had it been now possible that she could so arrange it.
It rained, and rained, and still rained, when there was now only a
week from the time they started. Oh! if they could only wait for
another month! But this she said to no one. After what had passed
between her and her husband, she had not the heart to say such words
to him. Arkwright himself was a man not given to much talking, a
silent thoughtful man, stern withal in his outward bearing, but
tender-hearted and loving in his nature. The sweet young wife who
had left all, and come with him out to that dull distant place, was
very dear to him,dearer than she herself was aware, and in these
days he was thinking much of her coming troubles. Why had he given
way to her foolish prayers? Ah, why indeed? And thus the last few
days of their sojourn in San Jose passed away from them. Once or
twice during these days she did speak out, expressing her fears.
Her feelings were too much for her, and she could not restrain
herself. "Poor mamma," she said, "I shall never see her!" And then
again, "Harry, I know I shall never reach home alive."
"Fanny, my darling, that is nonsense." But in order that his spoken
word might not sound stern to her, he took her in his arms and
"You must behave well, Fanny," he said to her the day before they
started. Though her heart was then very low within her, she
promised him that she would do her best, and then she made a great
resolution. Though she should be dying on the road, she would not
complain beyond the absolute necessity of her nature. She fully
recognised his thoughtful tender kindness, for though he thus
cautioned her, he never told her that the dangers which she feared
were the result of her own choice. He never threw in her teeth
those prayers which she had made, in yielding to which he knew that
he had been weak.
Then came the morning of their departure. The party of travellers
consisted of four besides the baby. There was Mr. Arkwright, his
wife, and an English nurse, who was going to England with them, and
her brother, Abel Ring, who was to accompany them as far as the
Serapiqui River. When they had reached that, the real labour of the
journey would be over.
They had eight mules; four for the four travellers, one for the
baby, a spare mule laden simply with blankets, so that Mrs.
Arkwright might change in order that she should not be fatigued by
the fatigue of her beast, and two for their luggage. The portion of
their baggage had already been sent off by Punt' Arenas, and would
meet them at the other side of the Isthmus of Panama.
For the last four days the rain had ceased,had ceased at any rate
at San Jose. Those who knew the country well, would know that it
might still be raining over those vast forests; but now as the
matter was settled, they would hope for the best. On that morning
on which they started the sun shone fairly, and they accepted this
as an omen of good. Baby seemed to lay comfortably on her pile of
blankets on the mule's back, and the face of the tall Indian guide
who took his place at that mule's head pleased the anxious mother.
"Not leave him ever," he said in Spanish, laying his hand on the
cord which was fastened to the beast's head; and not for one moment
did he leave his charge, though the labour of sticking close to him
was very great.
They had four attendants or guides, all of whom made the journey on
foot. That they were all men of mixed race was probable; but three
of them would have been called Spaniards, Spaniards, that is, of
Costa Rica, and the other would be called an Indian. One of the
Spaniards was the leader, or chief man of the party, but the others
seemed to stand on an equal footing with each other; and indeed the
place of greatest care had been given to the Indian.
For the first four or five miles their route lay along the high road
which leads from San Jose to Punt' Arenas, and so far a group of
acquaintances followed them, all mounted on mules. Here, where the
ways forked, their road leading through the great forests to the
Atlantic, they separated, and many tears were shed on each side.
What might be the future life of the Arkwrights had not been
absolutely fixed, but there was a strong hope on their part that
they might never be forced to return to Costa Rica. Those from whom
they now parted had not seemed to be dear to them in any especial
degree while they all lived together in the same small town, seeing
each other day by day; but now,now that they might never meet
again, a certain love sprang up for the old familiar faces, and
women kissed each other who hitherto had hardly cared to enter each
And then the party of the Arkwrights again started, and its steady
work began. In the whole of the first day the way beneath their
feet was tolerably good, and the weather continued fine. It was one
long gradual ascent from the plain where the roads parted, but there
was no real labour in travelling. Mrs. Arkwright rode beside her
baby's mule, at the head of which the Indian always walked, and the
two men went together in front. The husband had found that his wife
would prefer this, as long as the road allowed of such an
arrangement. Her heart was too full to admit of much speaking, and
so they went on in silence.
The first night was passed in a hut by the roadside, which seemed to
be deserted,a hut or rancho as it is called in that country.
Their food they had, of course, brought with them; and here, by
common consent, they endeavoured in some sort to make themselves
"Fanny," Arkwright said to her, "it is not so bad after all; eh, my
"No," she answered; "only that the mule tires one so. Will all the
days be as long as that?"
He had not the heart to tell her that as regarded hours of work,
that first day must of necessity be the shortest. They had risen to
a considerable altitude, and the night was very cold; but baby was
enveloped among a pile of coloured blankets, and things did not go
very badly with them; only this, that when Fanny Arkwright rose from
her hard bed, her limbs were more weary and much more stiff than
they had been when Arkwright had lifted her from her mule.
On the second morning they mounted before the day had quite broken,
in order that they might breakfast on the summit of the ridge which
separates the two oceans. At this spot the good road comes to an
end, and the forest track begins; and here also, they would, in
truth, enter the forest, though their path had for some time been
among straggling trees and bushes. And now, again, they rode two
and two, up to this place of halting, Arkwright and Ring well
knowing that from hence their labours would in truth commence.
Poor Mrs. Arkwright, when she reached this resting-place, would fain
have remained there for the rest of the day. One word, in her low,
plaintive voice, she said, asking whether they might not sleep in
the large shed which stands there. But this was manifestly
impossible. At such a pace they would never reach Greytown; and she
spoke no further word when he told her that they must go on.
At about noon that day the file of travellers formed itself into the
line which it afterwards kept during the whole of the journey, and
then started by the narrow path into the forest. First walked the
leader of the guides, then another man following him; Abel Ring came
next, and behind him the maid-servant; then the baby's mule, with
the Indian ever at its head; close at his heels followed Mrs.
Arkwright, so that the mother's eye might be always on her child;
and after her her husband; then another guide on foot completed the
number of the travellers. In this way they went on and on, day
after day, till they reached the banks of the Serapiqui, never once
varying their places in the procession. As they started in the
morning, so they went on till their noon-day's rest, and so again
they made their evening march. In that journey there was no idea of
variety, no searching after the pleasures of scenery, no attempts at
conversation with any object of interest or amusement. What words
were spoken were those simply needful, or produced by sympathy for
suffering. So they journeyed, always in the same places, with one
exception. They began their work with two guides leading them, but
before the first day was over one of them had fallen back to the
side of Mrs. Arkwright, for she was unable to sit on her mule
Their daily work was divided into two stages, so as to give some
hours for rest in the middle of the day. It had been arranged that
the distance for each day should not be long,should be very short
as was thought by them all when they talked it over at San Jose; but
now the hours which they passed in the saddle seemed to be endless.
Their descent began from that ridge of which I have spoken, and they
had no sooner turned their faces down upon the mountain slopes
looking towards the Atlantic, than that passage of mud began to
which there was no cessation till they found themselves on the banks
of the Serapiqui river. I doubt whether it be possible to convey in
words an adequate idea of the labour of riding over such a path. It
is not that any active exertion is necessary,that there is
anything which requires doing. The traveller has before him the
simple task of sitting on his mule from hour to hour, and of seeing
that his knees do not get themselves jammed against the trees; but
at every step the beast he rides has to drag his legs out from the
deep clinging mud, and the body of the rider never knows one moment
of ease. Why the mules do not die on the road, I cannot say. They
live through it, and do not appear to suffer. They have their own
way in everything, for no exertion on the rider's part will make
them walk either faster or slower than is their wont.
On the day on which they entered the forest,that being the second
of their journey,Mrs. Arkwright had asked for mercy, for
permission to escape that second stage. On the next she allowed
herself to be lifted into her saddle after her mid-day rest without
a word. She had tried to sleep, but in vain; and had sat within a
little hut, looking out upon the desolate scene before her, with her
baby in her lap. She had this one comfort, that of all the
travellers, she, the baby, suffered the least. They had now left
the high grounds, and the heat was becoming great, though not as yet
intense. And then, the Indian guide, looking out slowly over the
forest, saw that the rain was not yet over. He spoke a word or two
to one of his companions in a low voice and in a patois which Mrs.
Arkwright did not understand, and then going after the husband, told
him that the heavens were threatening.
"We have only two leagues," said Arkwright, "and it may perhaps hold
"It will begin in an hour," said the Indian, "and the two leagues
are four hours."
"And to-morrow," asked Arkwright.
"To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow it will still rain," said
the guide, looking as he spoke up over the huge primeval forest.
"Then we had better start at once," said Arkwright, "before the
first falling drops frighten the women." So the mules were brought
out, and he lifted his uncomplaining wife on to the blankets which
formed her pillion. The file again formed itself, and slowly they
wound their way out from the small enclosure by which the hut was
surrounded;out from the enclosure on to a rough scrap of undrained
pasture ground from which the trees had been cleared. In a few
minutes they were once more struggling through the mud.
The name of the spot which our travellers had just left is
Carablanco. There they found a woman living all alone. Her husband
was away, she told them, at San Jose, but would be back to her when
the dry weather came, to look up the young cattle which were
straying in the forest. What a life for a woman! Nevertheless, in
talking with Mrs. Arkwright she made no complaint of her own lot,
but had done what little she could to comfort the poor lady who was
so little able to bear the fatigues of her journey.
"Is the road very bad?" Mrs. Arkwright asked her in a whisper.
"Ah, yes; it is a bad road."
"And when shall we be at the river?"
"It took me four days," said the woman.
"Then I shall never see my mother again," and as she spoke Mrs.
Arkwright pressed her baby to her bosom. Immediately after that her
husband came in, and they started.
Their path now led away across the slope of a mountain which seemed
to fall from the very top of that central ridge in an unbroken
descent down to the valley at its foot. Hitherto, since they had
entered the forest, they had had nothing before their eyes but the
trees and bushes which grew close around them. But now a prospect
of unrivalled grandeur was opened before them, if only had they been
able to enjoy it. At the bottom of the valley ran a river, which,
so great was the depth, looked like a moving silver cord; and on the
other side of this there arose another mountain, steep but unbroken
like that which they were passing,unbroken, so that the eye could
stretch from the river up to the very summit. Not a spot on that
mountain side or on their side either was left uncovered by thick
forest, which had stood there untouched by man since nature first
But all this was nothing to our travellers, nor was the clang of the
macaws anything, or the roaring of the little congo ape. Nothing
was gained by them from beautiful scenery, nor was there any fear
from the beasts of prey. The immediate pain of each step of the
journey drove all other feelings from them, and their thoughts were
bounded by an intense desire for the evening halt.
And then, as the guide had prophesied, the rain began. At first it
came in such small soft drops that it was found to be refreshing,
but the clouds soon gathered and poured forth their collected waters
as though it had not rained for months among those mountains. Not
that it came in big drops, or with the violence which wind can give
it, beating hither and thither, breaking branches from the trees,
and rising up again as it pattered against the ground. There was no
violence in the rain. It fell softly in a long, continuous,
noiseless stream, sinking into everything that it touched,
converting the deep rich earth on all sides into mud.
Not a word was said by any of them as it came on. The Indian
covered the baby with her blanket, closer than she was covered
before, and the guide who walked by Mrs. Arkwright's side drew her
cloak around her knees. But such efforts were in vain. There is a
rain that will penetrate everything, and such was the rain which
fell upon them now. Nevertheless, as I have said, hardly a word was
spoken. The poor woman, finding that the heat of her cloak
increased her sufferings, threw it open again.
"Fanny," said her husband, "you had better let him protect you as
well as he can."
She answered him merely by an impatient wave of her hand, intending
to signify that she could not speak, but that in this matter she
must have her way.
After that her husband made no further attempt to control her. He
could see, however, that ever and again she would have slipped
forward from her mule and fallen, had not the man by her side
steadied her with his hand. At every tree he protected her knees
and feet, though there was hardly room for him to move between the
beast and the bank against which he was thrust.
And then, at last, that day's work was also over, and Fanny
Arkwright slipped from her pillion down into her husband's arms at
the door of another rancho in the forest. Here there lived a large
family adding from year to year to the patch of ground which they
had rescued from the wood, and valiantly doing their part in the
extension of civilisation. Our party was but a few steps from the
door when they left their mules, but Mrs. Arkwright did not now as
heretofore hasten to receive her baby in her arms. When placed upon
the ground, she still leaned against the mule, and her husband saw
that he must carry her into the hut. This he did, and then, wet,
mud-laden, dishevelled as she was, she laid herself down upon the
planks that were to form her bed, and there stretched out her arms
for her infant. On that evening they undressed and tended her like
a child; and then when she was alone with her husband, she repeated
to him her sad foreboding.
"Harry," she said, "I shall never see my mother again."
"Oh, yes, Fanny, you will see her and talk over all these troubles
with pleasure. It is very bad, I know; but we shall live through it
"You will, of course; and you will take baby home to her."
"And face her without you! No, my darling. Three more days'
riding, or rather two and a half, will bring us to the river, and
then your trouble will be over. All will be easy after that."
"Ah, Harry, you do not know."
"I do know that it is very bad, my girl, but you must cheer up. We
shall be laughing at all this in a month's time."
On the following morning she allowed herself to be lifted up,
speaking no word of remonstrance. Indeed she was like a child in
their hands, having dropped all the dignity and authority of a
woman's demeanour. It rained again during the whole of this day,
and the heat was becoming oppressive as every hour they were
descending nearer and nearer to the sea level. During this first
stage hardly a word was spoken by any one; but when she was again
taken from her mule she was in tears. The poor servant-girl, too,
was almost prostrate with fatigue, and absolutely unable to wait
upon her mistress, or even to do anything for herself. Nevertheless
they did make the second stage, seeing that their mid-day resting
place had been under the trees of the forest. Had there been any
hut there, they would have remained for the night.
On the following day they rested altogether, though the place at
which they remained had but few attractions. It was another forest
hut inhabited by an old Spanish couple who were by no means willing
to give them room, although they paid for their accommodation at
exorbitant rates. It is one singularity of places strange and out
of the way like such forest tracks as these, that money in small
sums is hardly valued. Dollars there were not appreciated as
sixpences are in this rich country. But there they stayed for a
day, and the guides employed themselves in making a litter with long
poles so that they might carry Mrs. Arkwright over a portion of the
ground. Poor fellows! When once she had thus changed her mode of
conveyance, she never again was lifted on to the mule.
There was strong reason against this day's delay. They were to go
down the Serapiqui along with the post, which would overtake them on
its banks. But if the post should pass them before they got there,
it could not wait; and then they would be deprived of the best canoe
on the water. Then also it was possible, if they encountered
further delay, that the steamer might sail from Greytown without
them, and a month's residence at that frightful place be thus made
The day's rest apparently did little to relieve Mrs. Arkwright's
sufferings. On the following day she allowed herself to be put upon
the mule, but after the first hour the beasts were stopped and she
was taken off it. During that hour they had travelled hardly over
half a league. At that time she so sobbed and moaned that Arkwright
absolutely feared that she would perish in the forest, and he
implored the guides to use the poles which they had prepared. She
had declared to him over and over again that she felt sure that she
should die, and, half-delirious with weariness and suffering, had
begged him to leave her at the last hut. They had not yet come to
the flat ground over which a litter might be carried with
comparative ease; but nevertheless the men yielded, and she was
placed in a recumbent position upon blankets, supported by boughs of
trees. In this way she went through that day with somewhat less of
suffering than before, and without that necessity for self-exertion
which had been worse to her than any suffering.
There were places between that and the river at which one would have
said that it was impossible that a litter should be carried, or even
impossible that a mule should walk with a load on his back. But
still they went on, and the men carried their burden without
complaining. Not a word was said about money, or extra pay;not a
word, at least by them; and when Arkwright was profuse in his offer,
their leader told him that they would not have done it for money.
But for the poor suffering Senora they would make exertions which no
money would have bought from them.
On the next day about noon the post did pass them, consisting of
three strong men carrying great weights on their backs, suspended by
bands from their foreheads. They travelled much quicker than our
friends, and would reach the banks of the river that evening. In
their ordinary course they would start down the river close upon
daybreak on the following day; but, after some consultation with the
guides, they agreed to wait till noon. Poor Mrs. Arkwright knew
nothing of hours or of any such arrangements now, but her husband
greatly doubted their power of catching this mail despatch.
However, it did not much depend on their exertions that afternoon.
Their resting-place was marked out for them, and they could not go
beyond it, unless indeed they could make the whole journey, which
But towards evening matters seemed to improve with them. They had
now got on to ground which was more open, and the men who carried
the litter could walk with greater ease. Mrs. Arkwright also
complained less, and when they reached their resting-place on that
night, said nothing of a wish to be left there to her fate. This
was a place called Padregal, a cacao plantation, which had been
cleared in the forest with much labour. There was a house here
containing three rooms, and some forty or fifty acres round it had
been stripped of the forest trees. But nevertheless the adventure
had not been a prosperous one, for the place was at that time
deserted. There were the cacao plants, but there was no one to pick
the cacao. There was a certain melancholy beauty about the place.
A few grand trees had been left standing near the house, and the
grass around was rich and park-like. But it was deserted, and
nothing was heard but the roaring of the congos. Ah me! Indeed it
was a melancholy place as it was seen by some of that party
On the following morning they were astir very early, and Mrs.
Arkwright was so much better that she offered to sit again upon her
mule. The men, however, declared that they would finish their task,
and she was placed again upon the litter. And then with slow and
weary step they did make their way to the river bank. It was not
yet noon when they saw the mud fort which stands there, and as they
drew into the enclosure round a small house which stands close by
the river side, they saw the three postmen still busy about their
"Thank God!" said Arkwright.
"Thank God, indeed!" said his brother. "All will be right with you
"Well, Fanny," said her husband, as he took her very gently from the
litter and seated her on a bench which stood outside the door. "It
is all over now,is it not?"
She answered him by a shower of tears, but they were tears which
brought her relief. He was aware of this, and therefore stood by
her, still holding her by both her hands while her head rested
against his side. "You will find the motion of the boat very
gentle," he said; "indeed there will be no motion, and you and baby
will sleep all the way down to Greytown." She did not answer him in
words, but she looked up into his face, and he could see that her
spirit was recovering itself.
There was almost a crowd of people collected on the spot,
preparatory to the departure of the canoes. In the first place
there was the commandant of the fort, to whom the small house
belonged. He was looking to the passports of our friends, and with
due diligence endeavouring to make something of the occasion, by
discovering fatal legal impediments to the further prosecution of
their voyage, which impediments would disappear on the payment of
certain dollars. And then there were half a dozen Costa Rican
soldiers, men with coloured caps and old muskets, ready to support
the dignity and authority of the commandant. There were the guides
taking payment from Abel Ring for their past work, and the postmen
preparing their boats for the further journey. And then there was a
certain German there, with a German servant, to whom the boats
belonged. He also was very busy preparing for the river voyage. He
was not going down with them, but it was his business to see them
well started. A singular looking man was he, with a huge shaggy
beard, and shaggy uncombed hair, but with bright blue eyes, which
gave to his face a remarkable look of sweetness. He was an uncouth
man to the eye, and yet a child would have trusted herself with him
in a forest.
At this place they remained some two hours. Coffee was prepared
here, and Mrs. Arkwright refreshed herself and her child. They
washed and arranged their clothes, and when she stepped down the
steep bank, clinging to her husband's arm as she made her way
towards the boat, she smiled upon him as he looked at her.
"It is all over now,is it not, my girl?"he said, encouraging
"Oh, Harry, do not talk about it," she answered, shuddering.
"But I want you to say a word to me to let me know that you are
"I am better,much better."
"And you will see your mother again; will you not; and give baby to
To this she made no immediate answer, for she was on a level with
the river, and the canoe was close at her feet. And then she had to
bid farewell to her brother. He was now the unfortunate one of the
party, for his destiny required that he should go back to San Jose
alone,go back and remain there perhaps some ten years longer
before he might look for the happiness of home.
"God bless you, dearest Abel," she said, kissing him and sobbing as
"Good-bye, Fanny," he said, "and do not let them forget me in
England. It is a great comfort to think that the worst of your
troubles are over."
"Oh,she's all right now," said Arkwright. "Good-bye, old boy,"
and the two brothers-in-law grasped each other's hands heartily.
"Keep up your spirits, and we'll have you home before long."
"Oh, I'm all right," said the other. But from the tone of the
voices, it was clear that poor Ring was despondent at the thoughts
of his coming solitude, and that Arkwright was already triumphing in
And then, with much care, Fanny Arkwright was stowed away in the
boat. There was a great contest about the baby, but at last it was
arranged, that at any rate for the first few hours she should be
placed in the boat with the servant. The mother was told that by
this plan she would feel herself at liberty to sleep during the heat
of the day, and then she might hope to have strength to look to the
child when they should be on shore during the night. In this way
therefore they prepared to start, while Abel Ring stood on the bank
looking at them with wishful eyes. In the first boat were two
Indians paddling, and a third man steering with another paddle. In
the middle there was much luggage, and near the luggage so as to be
under shade, was the baby's soft bed. If nothing evil happened to
the boat, the child could not be more safe in the best cradle that
was ever rocked. With her was the maid-servant and some stranger
who was also going down to Greytown.
In the second boat were the same number of men to paddle, the Indian
guide being one of them, and there were the mails placed. Then
there was a seat arranged with blankets, cloaks, and cushions, for
Mrs. Arkwright, so that she might lean back and sleep without
fatigue, and immediately opposite to her her husband placed himself.
"You all look very comfortable," said poor Abel from the bank.
"We shall do very well now," said Arkwright.
"And I do think I shall see mamma again," said his wife.
"That's right, old girl;of course you will see her. Now then,we
are all ready." And with some little assistance from the German on
the bank, the first boat was pushed off into the stream.
The river in this place is rapid, because the full course of the
water is somewhat impeded by a bank of earth jutting out from the
opposite side of the river into the stream; but it is not so rapid
as to make any recognised danger in the embarkation. Below this
bank, which is opposite to the spot at which the boats were entered,
there were four or five broken trees in the water, some of the
shattered boughs of which showed themselves above the surface.
These are called snags, and are very dangerous if they are met with
in the course of the stream; but in this instance no danger was
apprehended from them, as they lay considerably to the left of the
passage which the boats would take. The first canoe was pushed off
by the German, and went rapidly away. The waters were strong with
rain, and it was pretty to see with what velocity the boat was
carried on some hundred of yards in advance of the other by the
force of the first effort of the paddle. The German, however, from
the bank holloaed to the first men in Spanish, bidding them relax
their efforts for awhile; and then he said a word or two of caution
to those who were now on the point of starting.
The boat then was pushed steadily forward, the man at the stern
keeping it with his paddle a little farther away from the bank at
which they had embarked. It was close under the land that the
stream ran the fastest, and in obedience to the directions given to
him he made his course somewhat nearer to the sunken trees. It was
but one turn of his hand that gave the light boat its direction, but
that turn of the hand was too strong. Had the anxious master of the
canoes been but a thought less anxious, all might have been well;
but, as it was, the prow of the boat was caught by some slight
hidden branch which impeded its course and turned it round in the
rapid river. The whole lengths of the canoe was thus brought
against the sunken tree, and in half a minute the five occupants of
the boat were struggling in the stream.
Abel Ring and the German were both standing on the bank close to the
water when this happened, and each for a moment looked into the
other's face. "Stand where you are," shouted the German, "so that
you may assist them from the shore. I will go in." And then,
throwing from him his boots and coat, he plunged into the river.
The canoe had been swept round so as to be brought by the force of
the waters absolutely in among the upturned roots and broken stumps
of the trees which impeded the river, and thus, when the party was
upset, they were at first to be seen scrambling among the branches.
But unfortunately there was much more wood below the water than
above it, and the force of the stream was so great, that those who
caught hold of the timber were not able to support themselves by it
above the surface. Arkwright was soon to be seen some forty yards
down, having been carried clear of the trees, and here he got out of
the river on the farther bank. The distance to him was not above
forty yards, but from the nature of the ground he could not get up
towards his wife, unless he could have forced his way against the
The Indian who had had charge of the baby rose quickly to the
surface, was carried once round in the eddy, with his head high
above the water, and then was seen to throw himself among the broken
wood. He had seen the dress of the poor woman, and made his effort
to save her. The other two men were so caught by the fragments of
the boughs, that they could not extricate themselves so as to make
any exertions; ultimately, however, they also got out on the further
Mrs. Arkwright had sunk at once on being precipitated into the
water, but the buoyancy of her clothes had brought her for a moment
again to the surface. She had risen for a moment, and then had
again gone down, immediately below the forked trunk of a huge tree;-
-had gone down, alas, alas! never to rise again with life within her
bosom. The poor Indian made two attempts to save her, and then came
up himself, incapable of further effort.
It was then that the German, the owner of the canoes, who had fought
his way with great efforts across the violence of the waters, and
indeed up against the stream for some few yards, made his effort to
save the life of that poor frail creature. He had watched the spot
at which she had gone down, and even while struggling across the
river, had seen how the Indian had followed her and had failed. It
was now his turn. His life was in his hand, and he was prepared to
throw it away in that attempt. Having succeeded in placing himself
a little above the large tree, he turned his face towards the bottom
of the river, and dived down among the branches. And he also, after
that, was never again seen with the life-blood flowing round his
When the sun set that night, the two swollen corpses were lying in
the Commandant's hut, and Abel Ring and Arkwright were sitting
beside them. Arkwright had his baby sleeping in his arms, but he
sat there for hours,into the middle of the long night,without
speaking a word to any one.
"Harry," said his brother at last, "come away and lay down. It will
be good for you to sleep."
"Nothing ever will be good again for me," said he.
"You must bear up against your sorrow as other men do," said Ring.
"Why am I not sleeping with her as the poor German sleeps? Why did
I let another man take my place in dying for her?" And then he
walked away that the other might not see the tears on his face.
It was a sad night,that at the Commandant's hut, and a sad morning
followed upon it. It must be remembered that they had there none of
those appurtenances which are so necessary to make woe decent and
misfortune comfortable. They sat through the night in the small
hut, and in the morning they came forth with their clothes still wet
and dirty, with their haggard faces, and weary stiff limbs,
encumbered with the horrid task of burying that loved body among the
forest trees. And then, to keep life in them till it was done, the
brandy flask passed from hand to hand; and after that, with slow but
resolute efforts, they reformed the litter on which the living woman
had been carried thither, and took her body back to the wild
plantation at Padregal. There they dug for her her grave, and
repeating over her some portion of the service for the dead, left
her to sleep the sleep of death. But before they left her, they
erected a pallisade of timber round the grave, so that the beasts of
the forest should not tear the body from its resting-place.
When that was done Arkwright and his brother made their slow journey
back to San Jose. The widowed husband could not face his darling's
mother with such a tale upon his tongue as that.